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Nature & Adventure

12 days volunteering to protect turtle laying in Con Dao

Translated by Bing
Registering as a turtle conservation volunteer in Con Dao for 12 days, visitors from HCMC had an "invaluable" experience. This year, the volunteer program organized by IUCN and Con Dao National Park is divided into 7 waves, from 13/6 to 21/8, each lasting 12 days, maximum 22 volunteers.

The sea turtle conservation program in Con Dao lasts 12 days in June and July every year. This is a program jointly organized by Con Dao National Park and the World Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).


Volunteers participating in the program must register through these two units, results are usually announced one month before departure date. Travel expenses, first night hotel rooms volunteers pay for themselves. The conservation program is divided into several waves, stretching during the turtle laying season in Con Dao from May 6 to 8.



Con Dao National Park has 18 turtle beaches to lay eggs, the total area is up to tens of thousands of m2. This sea is the breeding ground for green turtles (spades).


Some large beaches or have a lot of mother turtles are Cat Lon, Duong beach in Seven Edge island, Big Cat beach in Cau island, Big Cat beach in Tre Lon island, Hon Tai sandy beach. All 5 yards are assigned ranger stations to protect natural resources and conserve sea turtles.



From April to November, over 600 mother turtles went to the sandy beaches of Con Dao National Park to nest, lay eggs with over 150,000 baby turtles rescued and released into the sea, the successful hatching rate reached 87%. In the high season, some beaches in Seven Edge island, large Tre island record 20 mother turtles nesting every night.


No matter what island you are assigned to, you will meet at least one or two mother turtles to spawn. Seven Edge Island is the place where the most turtles breed.


The mother turtle goes ashore only to lay eggs in the evening, when there are large water offspring. The volunteers' shifts depend on high tide, and if they are late, they can start from about 11 p.m. to 1 p.m.


On shift, ordered by ranger station officials to check the beach early, the group of friends gently stepped on the sand, tracing the turtle's footprints to find and locate the mother turtle. Then observe at what stage of the laying process the mother turtle is in.



Usually, turtles crawl ashore to find a suitable place, using their limbs to fan the sand around until the shell is level with the sand. Next, it uses its hind limbs to dig holes about 50-70 cm deep, slowly closes them and pushes to lay eggs the size of ping pong balls. Each time, the mother turtle lays 70-200 eggs.


One mother can lay up to four egg nests, each two weeks apart. If it detects an obstruction underneath, it abandons the drive and makes a new one. Each time the turtle lays for about 30 minutes, some "fastidious" ones will take longer. Volunteers who watch turtles finish laying will bring the eggs to the incubation area to protect them from animals or people who deliberately dig up and sell.


The sea turtle incubation pit is divided into two zones with or without a shell to balance the ratio of male and female turtles. The temperature around the litter determines the sex of the turtle. Normally, temperatures hotter than 29 degrees Celsius will increase the proportion of female turtles.


In addition to tracking the mother turtle and moving eggs, the volunteer team is also responsible for guiding registered guests to watch turtle laying.



After about 45-60 days, the eggs hatch into baby turtles and are released into the sea. The conservation team turns the basket upside down to protect the turtle eggs from attack. When they are old enough, they remove the basket so that the turtles can swim to the sea. The time to release turtles to the sea usually takes place in the morning, when the sun is already high. Volunteers were asked not to touch baby turtles, especially the abdomen, which contain many nutrients for their first day at sea.



When baby turtles return to the sea, there are always larger creatures ready to turn them into breakfast such as sharks and seabirds. They must learn to survive when they return to nature.



According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the odds of baby turtles living to adulthood are 1 in 100. They often die from dehydration if they do not crawl out to sea quickly enough after hatching or are attacked by other predators.



This year, the volunteer program implemented by IUCN and Con Dao National Park continues to be organized, divided into 7 waves, from 13/6 to 21/8, each lasting 12 days, up to 22 volunteers are selected.


Photo: Vinh Bear

According to VnE

Image source: Multiple authors
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